Collaboration with K-State Leads to Real World Experience
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MNU junior, Timothy Myers is experiencing something often reserved for graduate students at larger institutions: he’s working on scientific research with his professor. His chemistry professor Dr. Abby Hodges and Kansas State University bioengineering professor Dr. Mei He are collaborating on an exciting project to help the medical field.
At K-State’s Olathe campus, Dr. He (pronounced hay) directs a research group focused on translating bioengineering innovations into healthcare and diagnosis. Using 3-D printers, the scientists are creating chips on which to run diagnostic tests for patients. The goal is to perfect a product that will allow point-of-care diagnostics for many conditions. Point-of-care testing allows healthcare workers to perform tests at the time and place of patient care, often saving time and money.
“These are small chips about the size of a microscope slide,” Myers says. “You can run diagnostic tests on them, the same as in a hospital, but without needing hospital facilities.”
Myers’ part of the project is to make the diagnostic chip more biocompatible with human or biological samples.
“Our challenge is to find some solution to treat the plastic surface by changing the surface chemistry of the chip,” Myers adds.
When discussing the collaboration with Dr. He, Hodges recommended Myers for the student research position.
“Timothy’s very good at seeing a problem and solving it. He’s the departmental MacGyver,” she says, referring to MNU’s Department of Science and Mathematics where Myers has worked in the bio-chem lab and as a teaching assistant. “It’s important for undergraduate students to see that they bring something to the table that’s valuable. With Timothy, I’ve seen him be able to take that gift and apply it.”
Hodges thinks the experience has been important to Timothy’s growth in a number of ways.
“He’s also learned how to operate in other people’s spaces,” Hodges says. “And that’s always the problem with collaboration. It’s important in research and in employability. It’s also been really fun to see his interest in this topic—the chemistry behind it—grow.”
Myers agrees that the experience has been helpful.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” he says. “I’m really glad to have this research perspective—to see how science is done in real research [as opposed to purely academic]." Myers adds that this research and the scientific conferences at which he has presented his work, have helped him mature. “This type of interaction goes on all the time and I need to know how to do it.”
So how is the research going? Myers and Hodges say they have had some success and some setbacks.
“You start on a small scale to see if your idea will work, but often when you scale it up, you run into complications," Hodges says. "We’ve had some initial success with the data and we think we’re onto something, but now we need to work out some not-insignificant hurdles.”
In addition to potential future collaboration, Hodges says an aspect of the project that dovetails well with the values at MNU is the use for which Dr. He is developing her product.
“One of the cool things about this project is that Dr. He is making these devices that could be used in places in the world that are underserved,” Hodges says. It’s a way our students can help others while using their love of science. At MNU we like to show our students how they can be involved in ministry, and it doesn’t have to be missions, it can be making things that help people.”